A Word from the Wise (that would be YOU), Please

Dear Readers,

As I was writing this post, I stumbled upon another thoughtful interview with author Brett Lott done by WORLD magazine a year or two ago.  As an aspiring wordsmith who really, really thinks it’s important to write in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17), I’m curious: what do you think about Lott’s statement to Christian writers:

His [Lott’s] Christian students too often see “writing as an evangelistic tool.” Lott tells them that “writing short stories as a means of evangelism isn’t art. It’s sermonizing.

?

(…and/or other thoughts on Christian art welcome…)

Thanks in advance,

Cristy

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  1. #1 by Leah on September 18, 2010 - 11:36 am

    I’m going to write this fast, but here’s my basic thoughts, very unorganized!:
    1. I kind of agree with Lott’s statements.
    2. There is a place for evangelistic short stories, but they’re just that – evangelistic. They are meant for a specific purpose. They can be written well, and excellently, but they exist to sermonize. They are not, and will never be, mainstream literature.
    3. Most writing done by Christians is, in my opinion, more effective if they are written exhibiting Christian values, or even portraying a realistic idea of what the sinful world is like, than if they have “Christian wrap-ups” that can so easily turn people away, or “brand” the literature so that most people don’t read it.
    4. The focus in writing should be on true and beautiful. The Gospel is the ultimate thing that is true and beautiful, but there is much else in this world that is true and beautiful.
    5. We are not seeking to create a Christian subculture, where we create Gospel-ized versions of things. We are seeking to transform culture into something true and beautiful.
    6. Christian artists that I really respect are The Fray. They are Christians who play mainstream music, and they write honestly. Even down to songs about being confused about God and not understanding the world he made. That kind of honesty can bring people closer to God as they can identify. I cry when I listen to the song “You Found Me” because of the raw honesty. So many people feel that way, and it’s that kind of confusion and hurt that can bring people to God.
    7. That said, I do think that there is a place for art and music and literature that has an explicit Christian or Gospel message, especially intertwined with general art, music and literature. Because that’s still the center of our lives as Christians.

    Great questions, Cristy… I love thinking about this stuff. I’m sorry to be so rushed in writing my thoughts!!! Keep us updated on YOUR thoughts.

    • #2 by Cristy on September 20, 2010 - 2:25 pm

      I think #7 sums it up the best for me–as Christians, we HAVE to be explicit with the gospel. It’s our life! But like you’ve said, that message shouldn’t restrict our art, but expand and improve it. Thanks a lot for your thoughts (I know it’s something you’ve thought a lot about), and keep ’em coming if you have more!!

  2. #3 by Gretchen B on September 19, 2010 - 5:25 am

    When I was teaching at a Christian school (and was supposed to make math full of “Biblical integration”), I tried to emphasize to my students that math is worth studying for the mere fact that it is a language which seeks to describe how God made the universe to work. By studying it, we automatically learn more about Him and His attributes because He made it. That’s how I think true art should be, too. There is value in “art for art’s sake,” as people say, i.e. the broader pursuits of truth and beauty, insofar as they are actually glorifying and pleasing to Him because they are reflective (obviously or less obviously) of Him and His attributes. So, I agree with Leah in saying that Christians shouldn’t be bound to creating or appreciating art forms with neat little gospel endings.

    On the other hand, it’s so easy for us to misuse our Christian liberties, and to latch on to quotations like the one you cited as excuses to immerse ourselves into what is popular (and usually sin-laden) at our own expense, ultimately. Pointing out that media can try to make us want to sin is bold and courageous, Cristy, and TRUE! We’re more impressionable than we want to let ourselves seem, I think, and we ought to ask ourselves, “does this edify?” a lot more than we do, I think. I don’t think edification should be a concern only in the setting of the church; this life is a battle with real enemies of sin and Satan. When people say things like Lott said, I sometimes think they are just using a snobby, intellectual-sounding excuse not to be any different from this world. Romans 12:2 and Philippians 4 come to mind…

    • #4 by Cristy on September 20, 2010 - 2:31 pm

      You’re right; Christ’s glory is in everything, and we as Christians can (and should) use our ‘enlightened eyes’ to see that in places many wouldn’t think to look (like math)! I think you’re also right about how far we as Christians are from where we should be regarding those things that are truly lovely and worthy of our time and attention. It’s so easy to take up the world’s view of ‘good’ art rather than keeping an eternal perspective on quality!

  3. #5 by joannamv on September 19, 2010 - 4:23 pm

    I think the other thing Lott said is very true. “Writing about sin can err in two directions, he says: toward pornography or toward pablum. “It’s a fine line—we need to look at it but need to see depravity in the light of Christ. When you’re a participant you’re sinning. . . . It’s all reliant upon how the author renders it. That is the way readers receive it.” ”
    That has to be a constant thought in the mind of the writer. There is no way to write a realistic story without addressing sin in some way.

    We are witnesses for Christ, and our writing can (should?) witness to Him. But if we think overmuch of it as an “evangelistic tool” then, a) we will probably fail, and b) we risk viewing it as an actual means of bringing people to Christ, when in fact only God can do that. (This is semantics to a certain extent, I admit.)

    I guess what I mean, is that there is a difference between making the Gospel clearly evident in your writing, and sermonizing. The latter is likely to be more superficial in both creation and effect.
    What’s that thing everyone says? “Write what you know.” Well the biggest thing you know is your relationship with God, and so your writing should witness to that abundantly. You can of course write about things you don’t know (and if you didn’t it wouldn’t be fiction it would be autobiography and you could only write one), but the main theme really needs to be something you do know. That’s what is effective in your writing: you’re not a mother who has sat in a Planned Parenthood clinic but you are a sinner saved by grace and so that story was powerful.

    Remember all that stuff about worship recently? I guess one of the main problems in some churches is that they’ve confused two different types of music. What you sing is church is one thing. And then the other thing, is music created by someone who is playing and singing about their own personal, imperfect relationship with God. It can witness to non-believers and believers can empathise with it. But it probably doesn’t belong in a church service. Any effect it has on another person should not be because the artist orchestrated it that way but because God chose to use it in their life.

    • #6 by Cristy on September 20, 2010 - 2:39 pm

      One of the reasons I felt like this was such a good interview was that very quote! I thought it was so insightful into what both writers and readers must struggle with..especially as Christians…in the portrayal of sin. And I’ll go so far as to say it’s a mark of good vs. bad art–good art takes sin seriously but refuses the reader the opportunity to participate in it.

      Tim and I both thought your ‘write what you know’ comments were a helpful way to think about incorporating the gospel into writing…thanks!

  4. #7 by Tierney on September 27, 2010 - 10:50 pm

    I’m not going to say anything particularly helpful, I’m afraid … just that I wrestle often with the same questions, and found your post & the ensuing comments very thought-provoking. Thanks! Maybe I’ll write more about it later on, when I have a better idea what I think. 🙂

    • #8 by Cristy on September 29, 2010 - 7:52 am

      Please do report back with any further thoughts! It’s a huge issue…probably one we’ll all be stuck wrestling with for life.

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